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2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round one: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror bracket

By Robert Niles
Published: March 21, 2009 at 9:25 AM
Welcome to day five of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

Yesterday, all the favorites advanced, with Expedition Everest, Rock n' Roller Coaster, Indiana Jones Adventure and Men In Black Alien Attack easily moving on to the next round.

Today, the reigning champion enters the arena to defend its crown. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios faces what I'll call the "play in" contestant from among Disneyland's Fantasyland rides, Peter Pan's Flight.

As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Two Cedar Point coasters face off in our next match-up: It's Top Thrill Dragster versus Maverick.

The Beast versus The Dinosaur sounds like a decent late-night horror movie. How do you rate the attractions?

Dollywood and Knott's Berry Farm both have been known for their fried chicken dinners. But you wouldn't want to partake too soon before riding either Thunderhead or Xcelerator. Which coaster is your favorite?

To the comments!

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on March 21, 2009 at 9:46 AM
Maybe I missed the memo, but how were these ranked again? Not that it really matters, but I was suprsised that Dinosaur was the underdog. Looks like some upsets today!
From Ryan Sanford on March 21, 2009 at 9:49 AM
take the dragster over maverick!
From 141.149.52.21 on March 21, 2009 at 10:06 AM
This is a relatively pain free round.

The first pairing is funny. Peter Pan is a relic that needs to be updated and quick. Plus, the lines for it are abhorrent. Tower is a masterpiece. Disney took the Freefall, themed it up the wazoo and with the random drops...it can't be beat. Best ride at WDW.

Gotta go with Maverick on the second pair. Dragster is too similar to Kingda Ka for my tastes.

The third pairing is the hard one. The Beast is one of the great woodies and is incredible. However, I adore the Dinosaur ride system and my family enjoys it every time. Yes, I come off as a Disney homer here, but gotta go with the gut.

Thunderhead wins the last round simply because Xcelerator is too short. Blink and it is over.

From Robert Niles on March 21, 2009 at 10:14 AM
I was proud of you folks rating the great woodie The Beast over the mediocre, dim Dinosaur. But now you're testing my faith by voting for the Disney ride. Look, I'm all for supporting great Disney attractions, but let's not reward them for half-baked efforts, okay?
From James Rao on March 21, 2009 at 2:56 PM
The first matchup of the day is a no-brainer. Peter Pan is immersive, entertaining, and definitely worth your time but cannot compare with the technological wonder that is Twilight Zone - The Tower of Terror. TOT is a perfect example of what Disney does best: take a standard amusement park idea (in this case, a "freefall" style ride) and turn it into a creative tour de force. Simply the best themed attraction at WDW and one of the most thrilling and unique rides I have ever had the pleasure to experience.

Between TTD and Maverick, I had to go to some pros. A couple of folks I work with daily are huge Cedar Point fans, making a pilgrimage several times each summer. For them it was no contest: Maverick. While they loved TTD, they explained that it was too short, and just a one trick pony. It is a great one trick, they said, but no comparison to the thrills offered by Maverick. I have not ridden Maverick yet, so I will have to trust their judgment.

The Beast vs. Dinosaur: I totally disagree with you on this one, Robert! The Beast may be a classic woodie, and the longest one in the world at that (heh, heh, that's funny), but Dinosaur is pure Disney magic. Loud, brash, genuinely scary, and a whole lotta fun, I will take Dinosaur any day over any coaster, even one as great as The Beast.

Speaking of wooden masterpieces, Thunderhead is the pinnacle of GCI coaster design...a great wooden coaster with 30+ crossovers and more turns than you can shake a stick at (pun intended)! More fun than the Beast, and almost as thrilling as The Voyage at Holiday World, Thunderhead deserves your vote. Come on people, give Dollywood some love!

From Raul Araoz on March 21, 2009 at 10:38 AM
Okay, James, we are in complete agreement here. I am scared.

The first pairing is a joke. Peter Pan is a classic, but it is ancient. It needs an update and fast. Plus, the line goes on forever. The Tower is perfection. Like James said, they took the Freefall and amped the theming up the wazoo to create the very best ride at WDW

Dragster is too similar to Kingda Ka for my tastes and Maverick is simply superior.

I have to disagee with Robert on the third pairing as well.
The Beast is a terrific woodie, but Dinosaur has my all-time favorite ride system. The family loves it to death.

Lastly, Thunderhead is aces. Xcelerator is way too short, but will win, since apparently, no one goes to Dollywood. Come on people!

From Jeffrey Paules on March 21, 2009 at 11:17 AM
Tower vs. Peter

This is unfair in that it is two good rides that are head to head and it's not apples to apples. The two rides are two totally different concepts and have two totally different objectives for two totally different audiences. I'd say if you were a younger pre-teen, or a non-thrill seeker your vote should go to Peter. If you were anything else I'd think your vote would go to Tower. I would say I think Tower is better themed as far as the queues go, but that doesn't usually matter to the younger target audience of Peter so I'm not sure if that should be judged.

Personally my vote goes to Tower.

*Side notes: Did you know that the Tower of Terror WDW was actually hit by lightning during its construction as mentioned in the theme.

Also there was a hard boiled egg from someones lunch on one of the top spires from its construction to about the early 2000's when it finally decomposed.

Beast vs. Dinosaur

This is simple, Beast. To me it's just way better on all accounts even though I wouldn't consider it all that "thrilling." Dinosaur is a great example of sometimes you don't get what you pay for. I was told by a credible source that it was the most expensive ride Disney has built (this was in 2004). To put this in perspective I knew that it if you are talking the physical ride itself it is exactly identical to Indiana in DL, EXACT. No reprogramming, no new piece molds, exact. ...and yet was still the most expensive ride they made. Why, you ask? The robotic dinosaurs. Yes those very same dinosaurs you barely see. To me this is not even close to Indy's experience and is a major let down.

Easy, Beast

From James Rao on March 21, 2009 at 11:41 AM
The most expensive attraction at WDW in 2009 is Expedition Everest. Anywhere from $100 - $200 mil was spent (TH CREATIVE swears it was only $125 mil, but until I see the receipt I am leaning toward $200). All that money and now it is broken. Maybe Disney should have spent more?

Raul, we'll both be in agreement in round two as well, when we work together to bring down Expedition Everest. Although, in that case we will be trying to defeat the Yeti for completely different reasons, nevertheless a spirit of camaraderie may emerge.....

Scary, huh?

From Jeffrey Paules on March 21, 2009 at 11:47 AM
James- FYI Dinosaur, and Expedition Everest were made by the same WDI creative, and reside in the same non-mature park. It seems to me that that very same sum of dollars could have been split to smaller projects to give a more robust experience for the park, but that's just me. I question some of the choices, but I don't know all the factors.
From Derek Potter on March 21, 2009 at 12:31 PM
I'll take Tower of Terror in the first one. It's head and shoulders over Peter Pan.

The second matchup isn't the easiest. The ride on Dragster is unforgettable, and lets not forget that Kingda Ka is the ripoff of this attraction. The only problem is that it's short. Maverick in contrast has some very exciting moments and is plain fun, so my vote goes to Maverick.

The Beast, The Beast, The Beast...Kings Island is my home park, I've ridden this coaster hundreds of times, and it never ever gets old. Dinosaur is a nice Disney ride with stories and immersion and all that, but there's no comparison when thrill and reride value is considered. Even after 30 years, there's still nothing like a ride on The Beast. This ride will probably fall to Disney fanboy BS, and that's a shame.

Have to go with Thunderhead. GCI coasters are tough to top these days, and this one is the best of them. They are a thrilling ride, yet family friendly. This is another one that one could ride over and over.

From Scottland Jacobson on March 21, 2009 at 12:35 PM
It's heating up!!

Robert - I thought I read something that you weren't going to put children's rides in this tournament? I was surprised to see Peter Pan.

Of course TOT beats PP. That's just easy.

I'm a HUGE (HUGE!) Cedar Point fan and although TTD is quite a rush (I am one of the lucky few who have gotten to fall backwards - exhilarating!), Maverick became one of my top 10 coasters when I rode it last Spring. Maverick has 2 launches - lots of twists and turns. Plenty of "I'm going to hit the ground/wall!" moments. And, it's fun all the way up until the end. Maverick takes it. No contest.

The Beast is phenomenal. Talk about an edge of your seat/"is this thing going off the rails!?" experience. Dinosaur is tons of fun and very well done, but The Beast is unique. Keep voting for the second best woodie in the world!

And finally we have Mystery Mine all over again. Thunderhead is absolutely the BEST woodie EVER. Xcelerator is the prototype for Top Thrill Dragster (and, of course, Kindga Ka). It's a blast - but short and really not that high when compared to the 2 rides it spawned. People need to get out to Dollywood and ride Thunderhead. Vote for it!!! Look beyond the rides in your backyard. Branch out and give Ms. Parton some love! BEST...WOODIE...EVER!!!!

From James Rao on March 21, 2009 at 1:10 PM
Jeffrey, the only thing I don't like about DAK is Primeval Whirl and that whole Dino-rama area. The money spent on that midway crap should have been used on the Beastly Kingdom idea instead. Other than that, I think the folks responsible for DAK were brilliant.

I feel much better about my Maverick pick now that Derek and Scottland have chimed in and voted. Having not had the pleasure of riding Maverick I was unsure whether or not it beat the launch rush provided by TTD. Apparently it does.

And Scottland, did I read that right...you said something about Ms Parton providing you with the best woodie ever?? Hmmmm..... ;)

From 74.83.190.159 on March 21, 2009 at 1:20 PM
Honestly, how is Dinosaur better than The Beast?
Dinosaur is hardly a coaster, The Beast is known around the world.
'Nuff said.
From Robert Niles on March 21, 2009 at 1:21 PM
I thought that the defending champ deserved not just the number one seed, but also a sacrificial lamb, just like in, oh, other 64-team tournaments run this time of year. :-)

Going through the site ratings, once you eliminate the rides with fewer than the minimum number of votes, the clones and the total kiddie rides (such as Dumbo), I was getting to some not-that-great rides for the 64 slot. Rather than putting one of them in the tournament, I decided to let one Disney Fantasyland ride be the "play-in" contestant and take the 64 slot. Pan had the highest rating so it got that slot. (I'd have put Cat in the Hat in at 64 had Spider-Man won, to avoid the Disney bandwagon thing, if anyone wonders.)

From Raul Araoz on March 21, 2009 at 1:22 PM
Shame on you, Mr. Rao. This is a family site. Now kids, they simply mean that Dolly Parton gave him a wonderful, one-of-a-kind Woody from Toy Story doll. There...problem solved. Now, I return you to Theme Park INSIDER.
From Raul Araoz on March 21, 2009 at 1:25 PM
Perhaps next time, you can have a preliminary poll for the 64th slot, a week before the tournament. This way rides that get no love, like Superman, can have their supporters come out to get them in.
From John Stacy on March 21, 2009 at 2:08 PM
Tough to choose between TTD and Maverick - but my vote goes with Maverick. They are both extremely popular but I'm surprised Dragster was one place higher - vote goes to Maverick.

THE BEAST - What a classic and still awesome coaster that is celebrating it's 30th Anniversary this year!!! No contest - vote Beast!!!

From Joshua Counsil on March 21, 2009 at 2:26 PM
All the choices were easy today, but I also have to disagree with you, Robert. I love Dinosaur. I think it absolutely destroys Indy in dark ride appeal. The pterodactyl is corny, and the McDonald's ads are a little overwhelming, but I'd take it over The Beast any day.

Oh, and Thunderhead over Xcelerator, for sure. Have people even ridden Thunderhead?

From James Rao on March 21, 2009 at 2:53 PM
Hee hee hee, thanks, Raul.

Dino is getting clobbered now....odd. I wonder where the Disney Army is today? There is nothing wrong with the Beast, and I would not cry if it won, but man, I do so love Dinosaur. It is the only reason I even go to DinoLand USA at all.

At least Thunderhead is making a comeback..and deservedly so.

If you all like wooden coasters, you really owe it to yourself to go to Holiday World sometime. They have three of the best wooden coasters in the nation all at one park. And The Voyage is just astonishingly good.

From Robert Niles on March 21, 2009 at 2:54 PM
This is increasing my resolve to visit Dollywood this summer and do a big write-up with photos and video.
From Anthony Murphy on March 21, 2009 at 3:07 PM
I gotta disagree with you too Robert about Dinosaur. I find that matchup very hard due to the Beast being such a great roller coaster and Dinosaur, in my opinion, being such a great thrill ride.

I have been to Disney World many times and the one ride that generally gives me a jump and a scare everytime is Dinosaur (not ToT, Haunted Mansion, or even Alien Enounter/Stitch). Dinosaur uses sound, lighting, roughness, and animatronics to make it super scary including the ending with the Dino jumping out you.

From TH Creative on March 21, 2009 at 3:14 PM
After three rounds my picks are sitting at a respectable 10 of 12.
From TH Creative on March 21, 2009 at 3:51 PM
Ooops! I meant 12 out of 16!
From Emily G on March 21, 2009 at 4:31 PM
Could only vote for Tower of Terror as this is the only pair that I have experienced both rides. Peter Pans Flight is quite nice but the queue is hell in that it is unbearably hot and slow moving and the ride is short. Tower of Terror is in my opinion amazing. I love the ride itself, the story the theming the views and the drop. It is def one of my fav rides. Poor Peter Pan can not compare.

Would have loved to vote for Dinosaur, but cant as have no idea what the beast is never mind experienced it. Simillar to Tower of Terror I could ride this over and over I love the concept and enjoy ever second. Come on Dinosaur!!!

From James Rao on March 21, 2009 at 4:35 PM
Emily...go ahead...vote! While it is nice to "take the high road", trust me, no one voting in the tournament has ridden every ride. Do some research, check out some POV's on youtube, talk to people who have ridden things you haven't to get a comparison, then if you feel comfortable, make a choice. There is no rule that says you have to ride something to vote for it. I am not advocating a complete guess (do your homework first and don't just vote Disney or Universal by default like some people do!), but if you feel strongly about something, then vote for it!
From Derek Potter on March 21, 2009 at 5:48 PM
Go Beast. I don't know where the Disney superfans are, but I do know where the Kings Island superfans are.

Thunderhead making a late run. It really does deserve the win. I would hate to see Dollywood get snubbed again.

From Scottland Jacobson on March 21, 2009 at 6:03 PM
James and Raul - I'm completely blushing...Kids - I love my Woody doll!!

GO THUNDERHEAD!!!!!

From Todd Houts on March 21, 2009 at 9:14 PM
Well at least it appears we can all agree on the first pairing - TOT is a wonderful reinvention of the freefall ride.

Maverick vs TTD? As much as I feel TTD is a one-trick-pony - it's a good trick. After having the opportunity to ride Maverick as much as I wanted (or as much as my body could stand) after the park closed one night last year (as I recall it was 6 times in an hour since there were so few platinum pass holders there for the event), I found, you can't ride it over and over. It's a little more rough than you realize when there is no wait between rerides. Could I ride TTD more than six times in an hour - no doubt. So my vote goes to TTD.

Considering the similarities between Dinosaur and Indiana Jones at DL, I'm surprised how different they feel. Indiana is relatively smooth and enjoyable; I find Dinosaur a little more rough - although I found it better this year during my visit in January. But Beast is such a classic and celebrating 30 years this season and still a record holder. I'm giving it to the Beast.

Finally, the fourth was the hardest choice. I went with Xcelerator for similar reasons for TTD over Maverick. As I get older, wood coasters and my body become more and more unfriendly with each other. Whenever I get to Knotts, I head for Xcelerator and ride it over and over. I'm amazed how short the line always is for "TTD-lite" (but then I tend to visit parks off season on weekdays.) But with this matchup, I'm happy either way.

From James Rao on March 21, 2009 at 7:37 PM
[James slips Robert a $50 and some theme park tickets]

"Thunderhead. Get it?" James whispers, winking.

"Got it," replies Robert, a sly look on his face, the cash and Dollywood season passes gripped firmly in his sweaty palms.

"Good."

From Raul Araoz on March 21, 2009 at 8:20 PM
$50 bucks? I knew the economy was bad, but WOW. If I give you $100 can you make it so Superstar Limo gets named Best Ride EVER.
From Robert Niles on March 21, 2009 at 9:15 PM
That's gonna cost waaaaay more than $100. :-)
From W McDougal on March 21, 2009 at 9:20 PM
I can't think of a more overrated Disney ride than the Tower of Terror. Yes, it's a great drop ride, but it's still a drop ride no matter how much window dressing. It's fun the first couple times but has little repeatability. Pan is a classic dark ride in a unique carriage through an immensely nostalgic physical environment. It should easily beat ToT but it won't unfortunately.

Top Thrill Dragster is so much more exciting than Maverick, which is a good serviceable coaster but nothing out of the ordinary. What a shame TTD is going to lose so early.

From Robert Niles on March 21, 2009 at 9:42 PM
FWIW, the Kings Island and Cedar Point fans showed up in the middle of the day, looking at in-bound links from the log files. The KI folks rallied for The Beast, and appear to have picked up some support from the Cedar Point fans, who are voting coaster over Disney.

The pro-Beast voters appear to be sticking around to vote for Thunderhead, too, closing the gap there.

The Disney fans were linking in in the morning, but that traffic dropped off later in the day. Perhaps they thought this was in hand.

From 207.200.116.134 on March 22, 2009 at 1:14 AM
I love Disney. I've been to DL more than any other park. I also love coasters. And thrills. I'm voting without - or at least before - reading the comments because I'm feeling spit upon by some of your regulars. This is not a pleasant feeling. I want to vote what I like fairly and not because I'm reacting to someone's comment about fanboys.
From Adrian Walker on March 22, 2009 at 5:31 AM
Had to go with Dinosaur. Quite a decent dark ride. Not the best around mind, but it still promises a good thrill. Can't comment on Beast, having never ridden it, which is unfortunate because from what I've seen it looks like a great coaster. However, my vote goes for Dinosaur.
From Brian L on March 22, 2009 at 8:18 AM
I also don't get the hate for Dinosaur. I picked that because i love riding with friends who have never ridden it before and seeing their expressions when the Carnosaur(us?) comes out. Im always making some sort of odd face in that picture while everyone else in the car looks like they just peed themselves. Plus, as i explained last vote, wooden coasters make me ill. I may be missing out on some great rides but i get migraines and neck injuries.

other vote: ToT over peter pan because thats the easiest decision ever. I dont get the lines for that thing. never been to cedar point or dollywood so i have no idea about those rides.

From 24.62.32.187 on March 26, 2009 at 4:17 AM
i think tower of terror leaves my stumick at the top. sence your but is flying off the seat it seams it is trying to go get my stumic LOL

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